Social Indicators Research

, Volume 84, Issue 2, pp 179–188

Keeping things simple: why the Human Development Index should not diverge from its equal weights assumption

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s11205-006-9081-3

Cite this article as:
Stapleton, L.M. & Garrod, G.D. Soc Indic Res (2007) 84: 179. doi:10.1007/s11205-006-9081-3


Using a range of statistical criteria rooted in Information Theory we show that there is little justification for relaxing the equal weights assumption underlying the United Nation’s Human Development Index (HDI) even if the true HDI diverges significantly from this assumption. Put differently, the additional model complexity that unequal weights add to the HDI more than counteracts the improvement in goodness-of-fit. This suggests that, in some cases, there may be limited validity in increasing the complexity of a range of other composite sustainability indices.


ComplexityComposite indicesHuman Development IndexInformation TheorySustainable developmentWell-being

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Rural Economy, School of Agriculture, Food and Rural DevelopmentNewcastle UniversityNewcastle-upon-TyneUK